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What to Know Before You Go: Tips for Grandparents Traveling With Grandchildren

When I attended a Road Scholar adventure with my grandfather in 2006, it was a trip that we both had been planning for and looking forward to for many months already. Embarking on a grandparent learning adventure can be extremely exciting, and preparing for your trip is half the fun! Here are some of the things that my grandfather and I did to get the most out of our experience, and what I would recommend to others heading out on similar adventures.

Road Scholar writer Lauren B.

Road Scholar writer Lauren B. on her Road Scholar program with her grandfather in 2006.

"Picking out the right adventure with your grandchild will make the whole experience more enjoyable!"

Lauren B., Road Scholar Writer

Choose Your Program Together

Firstly, choosing the right program is essential. Road Scholar’s learning adventures range from extremely active, like hiking in Yellowstone, to more laid back, like delving into the history and science of space flight. There are also a wide variety of educational focuses, including Parisian culture, the magic and special effects of Harry Potter and the natural wonders of Iceland. Before heading out on our adventure to South Dakota, my grandfather and I discussed what options were available and what I might have be interested in doing. Taking this time to get together with your grandkid and pick out what learning adventure best matches both of your passions will make the whole experience more enjoyable — and you can start getting excited together! For an easy way to browse our programs, check out our Find a Trip tool on our website. Once there, you can filter programs based on your grandchild’s age and interests to find the perfect adventure!

Check Out Recommended Reading

Next, begin doing your research. Road Scholar takes care of your accommodations, transportation and more, so you can devote your time to focusing on the things you want to learn about. Prior to departing, consider the suggested reading list for your program, which can be found in the program information on our website, and read a book or two with your grandchild. Starting to learn in advance of your program is a great way to build excitement, as well as identify areas that you and your grandchild might be extremely interested in once you embark on your adventure.

Prepare to Make Some Memories

While doing your research, it’s a good idea to discuss what you and your grandchild might pack for your adventure. Two items that I am incredibly thankful that I had on my trip with my grandfather are a camera and a journal. Taking pictures and writing things down are great ways to preserve important facts and memories, and I’m grateful to still have stories and photos of this time with my grandfather to look back on.

Add Some Time to Explore

Depending on your schedule and budget, you may also want to consider arriving early or staying for a few days after your program ends. Doing so will allow you to revisit your favorite places, or try somewhere you didn’t get a chance to go. This is also a great way to continue one-on-one time with your grandchild. In addition to all the amazing places we were able to experience on our Road Scholar adventure, my grandfather and I also spent a few days exploring even more of South Dakota, including Spearfish Canyon, which reminded us of waterfalls in Maine we had previously visited.

Road Scholar writer Lauren B. and her grandfather

Lauren and her grandfather on a Road Scholar program in 2006. 

Pack Travel Essentials

Packing for a weeklong or multi-week trip to an exotic destination might feel overwhelming, but Road Scholar is here to help. After you book your trip, you’ll receive a recommended packing list from us tailored to your destination. Following that packing list is the first step to a wonderful and successful tour.

Above and beyond that list, make sure you add a handful of essential items to your suitcase to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. These include:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Medications and vitamins
  • Weather-appropriate clothes (think layers)
  • Your travel documents
  • Money
  • A toiletry kit
  • Glasses/contacts/sunglasses
  • Electronics
  • Chargers

Traveling with grandchildren means helping your grandkid pack. Review the packing list with them and double-check the list on the day before the trip. If you’re traveling with younger grandchildren, you may need to assist them with packing.

Finally, one helpful pointer is to try and pack light. For some of us, our instinct is to pack everything we might need, especially if we’re visiting a place for the first time. Try to pack a capsule wardrobe, meaning each piece can work with all the others. Pack layers you can take on and off as the weather changes, and choose clothes that can easily dress up or down. 

Overcome Challenges Together 

Travel with grandchildren is meant to be a wonderful and life-changing adventure. To make sure that happens, take the time to prepare for any possible challenges you may face. Review the travel itinerary in detail with your grandchild and look for any possible experiences that might be new, confusing or even a little scary. 

A few potential challenges you can prepare for may include:

  • Long travel days
  • Visits to busy cities
  • Meeting people from different cultures
  • Trying new types of food
  • Very hot or very cold weather
  • Different cultural expectations

Reviewing these challenges before the trip can help your grandchild feel more confident about the upcoming adventure. 

Road Scholar writer Lauren B.

Safety and Well-Being

Road Scholar prioritizes safety on all tours, but travel always includes some amount of risk. Traveling with grandchildren also means you’ll need to look out for their safety. The good news is that you can help lower the chances of a negative experience before the journey by taking some basic precautions. 

Make Sure Activities Are Appropriate for All Fitness Levels

First, ensure you feel comfortable with the amount of activity incorporated into the trip. Every tour includes an activity level rating. (You can also visit our Collections page and choose a collection of adventures based on activity level.) 

Some tours, like Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, include a high level of activity. Other tours, like our Agatha Christie & Sherlock Holmes experience, are much more easygoing. Don’t just focus on your physical ability. Remember, you are a grandparent traveling with a grandchild. Make sure your young travel companion also feels comfortable with the activity level of your trip. 

Let Your Tour Director Know of Any Medical Conditions

Many of our travelers have medical conditions and can have wonderful and safe tours. Please let your tour director know if you or your grandchild have any medical conditions. This will allow us to prepare in the event of a medical issue or to make accommodations to keep you safe. It’s always good to review your grandchild’s recent medical history with their parents in case they have a condition unknown to you.

Prepare for Any Food Allergies

Food allergies and dietary restrictions are common and don’t have to get in the way of a wonderful travel experience. Please let your tour director know if you or your grandchild have food allergies or other dietary restrictions. We will always do our best to accommodate your needs. Take the time to review your itinerary, which includes a section on lodging and meals. It might be a good idea to review available menus to make sure you can find meals that work with your diet. You can also research each destination to find eateries that will meet your dietary needs. 

Consider Theft-Resistant Products

The vast majority of the people we encounter on our tours are warm, welcoming and friendly. But theft can be a risk anytime you visit a city of any size. Certain people may see a grandparent traveling with a grandchild and consider them a target. You can lower your risk of theft by investing in things like anti-theft purses, bags, money purses and document holders. 

Road Scholar writer Lauren B.

Understand Cultural Norms

After booking a tour with Road Scholar, you’ll receive valuable information about your destination, including information on the people and cultural norms you’ll encounter. Learning about the cultures you plan to visit is always a good idea. Depending on where you visit, you may want to pack clothing that matches local norms, memorize simple greetings, and learn about local practices. This can help you get along with the new people you meet and avoid misunderstandings. You can share these tips with your grandchild, which can be an excellent opportunity to teach the next generation about respecting different cultures. 

Learn a Few Local Phrases

Here’s a neat grandparenting tip to encourage learning in a natural way. Challenge your grandchild to learn a few simple phrases if you are traveling to a place that speaks a different language than you. This way, you can get important points across if you need local assistance. Also, though many people understand and speak basic English in most large cities, locals always appreciate someone who knows a little bit of their language. 

Prepare Entertainment for the Road

While Road Scholar tours are specially curated to provide a wide range of interesting, engaging and active experiences, there will be downtime between activities. You may need to take a long flight to begin and end your tour, bus rides and car rides between destinations. Older folks are often more adept at living in the moment and appreciating the journey.

If you are a grandfather or grandmother traveling with grandkids, these can be valuable lessons to teach the next generation. However, enjoying slower moments can only last so long, especially if you are adventuring with younger children.

It’s a good idea to bring some forms of entertainment to help alleviate boredom. This can also be a good opportunity to spend quality time with your grandchildren. Here are a few helpful grandparenting tips for travel entertainment:

  • Bring a pack of cards or a mini chess set and teach your grandchildren your favorite games.
  • Share some of your favorite books with your grandkids, especially the books you loved at their age.
  • Download podcasts related to your destination and listen to them together.
  • Write down family stories to share with your grandchildren.
  • Bring old family photographs to share.
  • Create a playlist of your favorite songs. 

You can always watch shows or movies together on a tablet or phone. Make sure to download these movies and shows before you leave home, as the internet isn’t always strong or available at all places during your adventure. You’ll also want to bring your device chargers and headphones to be considerate of your fellow travelers.  

Bring Their Parents Along Too!

If your grandchild is worried about traveling without their parents, try Road Scholar’s family programs. Learning is truly the journey of a lifetime, and one of the best ways to promote that is to travel with all three generations. Several of our grandparent adventure themes overlap with our family programs, like exploring Italian culture and rafting in the Grand Canyon, so that everyone can join in on the fun.

My grandfather’s Road Scholar trips with his grandchildren were times that he treasured deeply, and they gave us amazing learning experiences and individual memories with him that will last a lifetime. For more information before you head out on an adventure of your own, check out our Grandparent Travel Guide.

Not sure which adventure to pick? You can choose from over 60 tours curated for grandparents, grandkids and families. For even more choices, take a look at our most popular tour destinations